Solo Vehicle Dependent Exploration, Travel & Adventure

Serbia – Nothing against Serbia, but…

There didn’t seem like there was much to see or do in Serbia.

OK, maybe we are not being entirely fair to the country as a whole as we hadn’t researched it much and only had our Bradt guide for information. Coupled with the fact that we were trying to keep our route as direct as possible also wouldn’t have helped the cause.

Initially we were quite surprised by the positive attitude of the border officials and then signs marking the ‘Official Tourist Area’ of Tara National Park. As we climbed higher into the park it began to snow and we had a long drive around seeing no wildlife before descending past an old quarry and a large dam (photos prohibited). We got a lot of stares from the local inhabitants especially when pulling up outside a cafe in Bajina Basta, the regional town. Somehow we had managed to find, quite by chance, the hippest cafe (Cafe Del Gusto) in town serving excellent food and coffee with some great music to relax to. The rig parked outside spanned the length of the cafe front and got some interesting looks as the rain poured outside. The town is quiet enough sat alongside the River Drina where the National Geographic photo of the ‘house of the river’ was taken. Unfortunately at the time of our visit the river was in full flow and the poor house had lost all of its wooden exterior and the foundations submerged under the brown water. Would it still be standing in the summer?

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As we would soon realise there are not many accommodation options in Serbia so we had to set off again towards Uzice in search of a bed. The shortest route across a mountain pass seemed the best way but then it began to snow as the light faded. We followed a large slow timber lorry under the premise that ‘if he was attempting it in the snow then it wasn’t a problem’… it was in fact, a problem. Half way along we met a fairly lengthy queue with an unknown cause. Tail lights from HGVs stretched long and high into the mountainside with some flashing beacons from snow ploughs somewhere up there. After thirty minutes of waiting we started to move and the problem revealed itself in the fact that a couple of HGVs, once stopped, could not get going again. The other issue was impatient car drivers zipping through into gaps that were not there, stopping anything coming the other way. Two hours later we crested the pass in a blizzard before descending precariously (still behind the timber lorry who seemed to be the only sensible person on the mountain) into the darkness of Uzice. Even here there was only one hotel! The Hotel Zlatibor (Google it). Now imagine it in the dark and rain, it was like something out of Judge Dread, like a rocket ship and inside it was even more drab. The other option was out of town but we decided to take it anyway, arriving at 2200 and worn out.

The next day we drove east in hope of seeing something worth seeing. We drove through the countryside on and on through small towns, industrial complexes, small sections of motorway, wierd service stations toward Nis close to the Bulgarian border. A whole country, stopped for next to nothing, taking in total four photographs. We kept on driving looking for somewhere to stay as there didn’t seem to be anything else worth doing. Campsites which should have been there were not so we drove on until it was nearly dark and we asked a TIR roadside restaurant near the border if we could camp there for the night. The next morning we stopped in the little town of Bela Pelanka to pick up some breakfast from a small bakery where we were met with smiles and helpfulness (something not bestowed to all Serbs) which left us feeling like we hadn’t really given the country or its people the chance to show us another side. Feeling almost guilt for not enjoying our two days transiting Serbia we headed for the Bulgarian border. Was it us? did we go about it the wrong way? was the Bradt guide useless? two days does not help the cause but still. Even a guy in the fuel station stopped to ask if we were ‘just transiting’ like it was the norm, ‘nothing to see in Serbia’ kind of attitude. I said we were here to look around and he seemed kind of shocked but didn’t say much afterwards. Later that morning we crossed into Bulgaria and back into the EU. Maybe next time Serbia, maybe next time…

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One response

  1. Dan

    We struggled too in Serbia. You should have checked out Mokra Gora, the village on the hill and the railway. Also the Studenica Monastry further South.

    Accommodation wise. Look for little often hand written signs reading SOBE. They are rooms for rent. Like b&b’s with no breakfast. They’ll cost you about 10 to 20 euro a night. It is a great way to meet people. We only used SOBE in Serbia camp seemed hard.

    Dan

    23/04/2013 at 20:46

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